Around the Horn: Star Performers


By Kyle Peterson, ESPN.com | Kyle Peterson Archive

One of the cool things about the College World Series is watching athletes play on a national stage, and projecting which of those guys will make it to the big leagues. In recent years, the tournament has seen a number of players move up the professional baseball ranks quickly to become big-time players on their big league clubs.

At Texas, Huston Street guided the Longhorns to the College World Series three times, including a national championship in 2002. After being drafted in 2004, Street moved up the ranks quickly and was named the 2005 American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Cal State Fullerton's Chad Cordero made a similar jump to the big leagues. After taking the Titans to Omaha twice in his three years, Cordero was drafted by the Expos and at 23 became the youngest reliever in Major League Baseball history to have a 40-save season.

This year, there are a number of players who have the potential to make an immediate impact in the big leagues. Of players drafted this year, North Carolina ace Andrew Miller and Rice's Bryce Cox appear ready to make the jump. Miller, the sixth overall choice, has been a favorite of the scouts all season. Cox, who pitched 2.2 innings of relief against Miami today and came into the game throwing 97 mph, was selected in the third round by the Boston Red Sox.

The College World Series also showcases future draft picks. Georgia Tech's Matt Wieters grabbed a lot of headlines after he became just the second person to catch and pitch in the same game at the CWS in the Yellow Jackets' elimination game on Sunday. Wieters can do it all -- pitch, catch, hit and play first base -- and is expected to be the top pick in the 2007 draft.

Georgia's Josh Fields is another mid- to high 90s pitcher with a big-time fastball. Fields' teammate, Joey Side, also displayed big league potential in the College World Series. Side is a bit overlooked, but the more you watch him, the more you like him. He's tough, talented and plays the game the right way. Wieters, Fields and Side will all be back next year and should be a lot of fun to watch.

There might not be as many scouts attending the College World Series as there were when it took place before the draft -- most scouts are scattered at summer league games -- but they're definitely watching how players respond to the attention, crowds and pressure of playing at this level.

In Monday night's games, individual stars put on a show. Jonah Nickerson willed Oregon State to its first College World Series win. The Beavers jumped out to an early lead in their elimination game with Georgia and held on for the 5-3 victory. Now that they have regained their confidence, they're a dangerous team. They've got the talent, the arms and they're fresh. Oregon State has something to prove and is looking forward to avenging the 11-1 opening-round drubbing by Miami. Tuesday night's game promises to be much better than the first go-around (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

Cal State Fullerton and Clemson will also fight for their tournament lives tomorrow night (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET). Clemson is loaded, but Fullerton is one of the most balanced teams in the tournament. I still think the Titans will get to the championship series. I think we'll see a little more offense tomorrow -- we're getting down to where teams' third pitchers and bullpens are taxed.

Monday's Stat of the Day
12 Georgia's 0-2 performance in the College World Series marks the first time in 12 years (1994) that a team from the SEC has failed to win a game in Omaha.

Four of the eight teams that made the College World Series are from the ACC, tying the SEC's record. The SEC sent four teams to Omaha in 1997 and 2004.


Staggering Stats
Sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story, but in this case, they paint a pretty accurate picture. Rice stunned Miami's usually dominant offense -- the Canes scored 11 runs against Oregon State in the opening round -- and the Owls weren't slackers at the plate, either. They made the most of their plate appearances, and although Rice had three errors to Miami's two, the Owls were able to get the job done.